Brumbies the beacon with Aussie teams in Super struggle
The Brumbies can thank Jake White, the Reds’ real blues may be yet to come and the Waratahs are teetering with another red-faced exit on the cards. Welcome to the halfway point of what has been a colourful 2012 Super Rugby season.
With little in the way of new personnel it was hard to see how an otherwise ordinary-looking Brumbies (31 points, Australian conference leaders – $17) outfit were going to be finals threats. But White has showed just what a master mentor can do. The improving ACT franchise had a terrific South African tour, bringing home seven points from their two games. They’re playing attractive rugby with Christian Lealiifano a revelation at five-eighth, and some noticeable touches from assistant coach and one-time Wallabies maestro Stephen Larkham.
While Will Genia’s re-signing is a plus there’s still no sign of Quade Cooper and it won’t take too much for the Reds’ season to go off the rails. Other than the points it’s difficult to take that much from a win over the hugely disappointing Blues – a richly talented side that on paper looked like potential finalists but have been a rabble currently in last place. The Reds (25 points, 9th – $17) have major reality checks coming up in the next fortnight with games against the Crusaders (33 points, 6th – $3.50) and Chiefs (39 points, 1st – $4.25); and back-to-back losses could really see their season unravel.
The Chiefs have been superb with eight wins and have benefited from not having to play South African fancies the Stormers and Bulls in their backyards. Bank on one of those South African teams to be a conference leader and the other to take out one of the additional three finals spots.
And what of the Waratahs (26 points; 8th – $26)? Far from disgraced in their 37-33 weekend loss to perennial bogey team the Crusaders, the defeat still hurts a side that has frequently underperformed. It may well be losses to the likes of the Force that will hurt in the wash-up as the NSW franchise now goes up against the Brumbies, Bulls and Stormers in an ugly three-week run.
As alluded to in Sportingmail‘s March edition it’s the new June break for Tests and the subsequent run home that will likely prove telling. The `Tahs go up against the Brumbies again in the second last round and then tackle the Reds. There’s every chance those matches will decide Australia’s conference winner.960 views